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Questions about privacy when people reviewed user sounds on Facebook

NEW YORK (AP) – Facebook has paid contractors to transcribe audio clips from users of its Messenger service, which has raised privacy concerns for a company with a history of privacy ceases.

The exercise was until recently common in the technical industry. Companies say that the use of people helps to improve their services. But users are usually not aware that people and not just computers are reviewing sound.

Transcripts made by people raise greater concern because of the potential of fake employees or contractors who leak details. The practice at Google came about after some of its Dutch audio excerpts leaked. More than 1,000 recordings were received by Belgian broadcaster VRT NWS, who noted that some contained sensitive personal conversations ̵

1; as well as information that identified the person who was speaking.

"We feel we have some control over machines," said Jamie Winterton, director of strategy at Arizona State University's Global Security Initiative. “You have no control over people that way. There is no way once a person knows anything about dragging that information to the trash. "

Jeffrey Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy Group for Privacy Protection, said that it is bad enough that Facebook uses artificial intelligence as part of its data control activities. He said the use of people is also "even more worrying."

Tim Bajarin, technical columnist and chairman of Creative Strategies, said that it is a bigger problem when people use the information beyond their intended purpose.

Facebook said audio excerpts reviewed by contractors were masked so as not to reveal anyone's identity. It said it stopped the exercise a week ago. The development was previously reported by Bloomberg.

Google said that it stopped doing this all over the world while it was investigating the Dutch leaks. Apple has also suspended the use of people for Siri digital assistant, but plans to return them after seeking explicit permission from users. Amazon said it still uses people, but users can reject, or opt out of, the human transcripts.

A report from the motherboard technical news site last week said that Microsoft is also using human transcripts with some Skype conversations and commands spoken to Microsoft's digital assistant, Cortana. Microsoft said in a statement that it has safeguards such as removing identifying data and requiring contractual agreements with contractors and their employees. Still, details leaked to the motherboard.

After a report on the motherboard, Microsoft said it "could do a better job" of explaining that people are listening to the conversations. It updated its FAQ to Skype to say that using the translation service "may include transcription of audio recordings by Microsoft employees and vendors."

It makes sense to use human transcripts to train artificial intelligence systems, Winterton said. But the issue is that companies are leading people to believe that only machines listen to sounds, cause miscommunication and distrust, she said.

"Communicating to users through your privacy policy is legal but not ethical," she said. [19659002] Corporate privacy policies – usually long, dense documents – often allow the use of customer data to improve products and services, but the language can be opaque.

"We collect content, communications and other information that you provide when using our products, including when you sign up for an account, create or share content, and communicate or communicate with others," reads Facebook's data usage policy . It does not mention sound or voice specifically or use transcripts.

Bajarin said that technology companies must use several methods to refine software-less intelligence, as digital voice assistants and voice-to-text technology are still new. But he said it is "the smallest" company can make more clear about human commitment.

"They should be very clear on what their policies are and on consumer communications or whatever it will be seen," he said. "If humans are part of the process of analysis that also needs to be stated."

Irish data protection regulators say they are seeking more information from Facebook to assess compliance with European computer rules. The agency's statement says it also had "ongoing engagement with Google, Apple and Microsoft" on the issue, although Amazon was not mentioned.

Facebook is already being reviewed in many other ways as it has misused user data. It agreed to a $ 5 billion fine for solving a US Federal Trade Commission probe of its integrity practice.


Lerman reported from San Francisco.

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